There is open revolt in Iran and for some reason and no one seems to be talking about it.
Protestors first hit the streets over the issue of rising fuel prices and they met with a brutal crackdown by the Iranian regime. The situation escalated at an alarming rate with an internet black out starting on the 16th of November near masking the news while comrades international were focused on Hong Kong, Bolivia and Chile.
By the 19th, Amnesty International said that at least 106 people had been killed and that the number may be much higher, Iran’s government called it “baseless allegations and fabricated figures.” Meanwhile a UN agency said that it was looking to be more like 200 and Anarchists on the ground put the figure closer to 3/500.
It’s was hard to pin a figure on the dead with only the broadcasts of the Iranian government to turn to and they were pouring out a mixture of protestors burning Qurans in Tehran and pro-government rallies in an attempt to alienate the protestors from their communities. Through VPN’s and the occasional bit of signal the odd status update or picture leaked out, however these calls for support seem to have been drowned out in the reams of shocking footage coming from elsewhere.
So here is the situation. In 2015 the US imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran and there was a subsequent economic collapse. This ofcourse overwhelming affected the working class Iranians, the parasites in control remained quite comfortable. President Hassan Rouhani’s solution was to raise the fuel price (as opposed to say increasing the taxation of the economically wealthy and this saw an explosion of civil unrest. Iran has the cheapest petrol prices in the world, sitting on top of the fourth largest oil reserves . Petrol is seen as a something which should be accessible to all in abundance. A rise of near 200% was simply intolerable to working class Iranians.
However the fuel price increase is simply the straw that broken the camels back as the people face a constant waves of government corruption and wide spread poverty which sees millions unemployed or living extremely precarious lives, depriving them education, healthcare, food, and housing.
Protestors were initially met with water cannons and tear gas. This quickly escalated to live ammunition and local Anarchist comrades reporting tanks on the streets and people being shot at from helicopters.
On the 25th, the internet was restored. Reports came out indicating at the very least there were 400 deaths, 4000 injuries and some 10,000 arrests. Anarchists comrades report protests in 170 cities being composed of a mixture of workers, students and homeless, identifying it as a class war. The protesters were now demanding the overthrow of the Iranian regime, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) due to their corruption and the plague of economic problems and the lack of freedom and fundamental rights.
A statement by The Iranian leftist diaspora in the United Kingdom, France and Germany, formed by a loose coalition of academics and militants calling upon the global left to express solidarity with those struggling in Iran was issued later that day:
world is on fire. Not only forests but also cities are burning all
over the world. Social conflicts of all sorts are erupting, spreading
their flames across the planet: Algeria, Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Hong
Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, you name it. Located within this global
context of struggles against the social hell of neoliberal,
financialized capitalism, there has been another mass uprising in
Iran since November 15 …
…. There are many videos showing
the police shooting demonstrators in the head and chest — as we
observed before in the case of Iraq. This happened mainly in the
Kurdish and Arab provinces whose discriminated people are once again
at the very forefront of the uprising and have paid the highest
… The left needs to learn from
the oppressed classes to simultaneously oppose US imperialism
(especially US sanctions) and the Islamic Republic’s interventions
in the region.
We, the undersigned academics and
militants, urge the global left to break its silence and express its
solidarity with the people of Iran and their resistance.
It is pointless for us to demand
anything from the Islamic Republic, but we will demand from our
comrades and progressive forces all over the world to be — in any
possible form — the voice of the oppressed people in Iran
suffocated by the forced isolation. We also call on the international
left to condemn the atrocities of the regime against its own people.
Finally, we stand in solidarity
with the Iranian protesters who are reclaiming their dignity by
refusing austerity, authoritarianism, militarization of society, as
well as any other form of domination that stifles their autonomy and
“The Anarchist Union of Iran and Afghanistan believes that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regime will not hesitate to massacre millions of Iranians, like it has done in Syria and Iraq as well as in Iran these these last few days. Therefore, the Anarchist Union of Iran and Afghanistan is prepared to declare that it will cooperate with all Kurdish, Arab and Baloch armed opposition forces. With respect to the widespread repression of defenseless people in Iran, we must be able to provide them with the right tools to defend themselves, before there are more dead and the people’s movement has been permanently suppressed. Therefore the need to form an armed revolutionary front to support and defend the people against the Islamic regime’s executioners is urgent and necessary. If it is possible to transport weapons to people inside Iran, you should not hesitate for a moment to prevent more people from being bled and buried. The duty of the revolutionary and radical opposition outside of Iran is to provide logistical and strategic support to the struggles and resistance of the people inside Iran”
These statements come just days after President Hassan Rouhani celebrating on the 20th remarked “our people have been victorious against… the enemy’s conspiracy” stating that “Those anarchists who came out onto the streets were few in number,” he said, insisting “this is the biggest display of the power of the nation of Iran”.
Two days later protestors burnt down a bank in Behbahan.
It would seem he is wrong.
It would seem that Iran is gearing up for a revolution.
FACT. What just happened in Bolivia is a coup d’etat if we consider the dictionary definiton which is “the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. The chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements. “
It is being said the former president Evo Morales
resigned so he was not overthrown. It is also said he committed fraud
and that is why he left. It is also said it is not a coup because Evo
himself called it ‘civic and police coup’ as oppose to military
This view is quite simplistic and does not go deep
into the history of Bolivia, how the elections were held, and votes
counted, and what was achieved in 13 years 9 months and who benefited
and who did not, and who took power, how and what has happened I
Bolivian streets since then.
During what his opponents call ‘dictatorship’,
Evo Morales Ayma, the first Indigenous president ever in
Bolivia, and South America, reduced poverty from 35% to 15%,
increased the minimum wage 127%, and very importanly, nationalised
natural resources including natural gas and lithium, redistributed
the lands among indigenous peasants, and made healthcare universal
and free. Also, Bolivia was named by the UN as free of
illiteracy, and unemployment levels fell.
Bolivia held elections on the 20th of October.
After the count of the overall votes he was declared victor with 47%
against Carlos Mesa, right wing, with 36%. The latter immediately
challenged this supported by the Church, and the governments of the
USA, Brazil, and Argentina’s soon to be ex president, Neo-liberal,
Macri, with the complicity of the American States Organisation (OEA)
whose General Secretary, Luis Almeguer said in press conference on
12th of November that what was happening in Bolivia was not a coup
and the military was not involved. All of this should should ring
Evo Morales agreed to have international observers
after his opponents accused him of stealing the election. On 2th of
October he called for a second election. In the streets, there were
clashes between supporters and police and opponents. Evo Morales was
forced to resign to avoid bloodshed and was offered political asylum
by Mexico who sent a plane to Paraguay for him which he boarded on
the early hours 12th of November.
But that is not all that happened. During all this
time, right-wing opposition gangs kidnapped family members of cabinet
ministers and forced them to resign, burnt Evo Morales’ sister’s
house, looted his own home, and burned the homes of some politicians
loyal to the regime, and Patricia Arce, mayor of Vinto, was attacked,
asasulted and publicly humiliated by an angry right wing mob.
Ordinary people, mostly indigenous supporters, were also attacked,
and graffiti appeared saying ‘Indios out” and “Bolivia free of
“Indios” and the Wiphala flag, a symbol of unity of Original
Nations has been burned and taken from police officers uniforms.
The perpetrators of this coup, some alleged quite
simplistically is the USA. The European left forgetting that Latin
American is a continent still colonised mentally and in all aspects
of life. We do have agency and reactionary and fascist powers of our
own that do not really need US support, even f they do look for it
and they do get it.
That the CIA has backed every single coup in our
continent since the 50’s is a given, however it is a fact that the
plots come first from within. The USA usually provides money, weapons
and a blessing.
The perpetrators of this very Latin American Coup
D’Etat, which started being arranged as early as July 2019 ,
according to audio and documents seen by the new progressive elected
government of Argentina to be made public soon, are many.
Carlos Mesa, the neo- liberal candidate to
presidency, a privateer of course, but he is not leading this. The
real brain behind this is Luis Camacho, a multi millionare religious
fundamentalist which much to lose in a plurinational nation led by a
socialist president. His family profited from the sale of Bolivia’s
natural resources and health insurance. He is also a fascist leader
of the separatist Union Juvenil Crucenista,(UJC) whose young members
seems to have taken a leaf from the SS and Hitler Youth book. There
are pictures of them sieg heiling, in fact.
The role of the evangelical churches in this coup
and the far right in the whole continent must be mentioned too. The
UJC are fanatics and there is now also an army of Christian youth in
Argentina with fascist leanings, too. The Catholic church, as they
have done historically in Latin America, are either keeping quiet or
actively preaching to keep the oligarchy in power.
Important to mention the fact that the coup
happened just a week after Evo Morales stopped a multimillion deal to
exploit the country’s lithium resources.
Camacho entered the Palace of Government as soon
as Evo had resigned waving a flag, and donning a bible. A sign of
things to come. He has made speeches quoting the bible and has vowed
to bring it back to governmental circles.
In terms of the army involvement, the Chief of the
Armed Forces, General Williams Kaliman called for Evo to resign and
after he did, the general gave a speech consecrating the army to
Jesus Christ. They have also attempted to bribe Evo Morales’
security with 50 000 dollars to hand him in before he had to flee.
The army, too, have being asked by the police
force to assist them in the streets to control the thousands of
people who support Evo and who have pledged to revolt if he is not
reinstated. I am talking about Indigenous organisations, Community
leaders, Farmers and doctors.
Contacts in Bolivia now have reported to me that their friends have been arrested or attacked by young fascists or the police, with video evidence, and, oddly, they say a large number of indigenous people out in the streets last night seem to have vanished. There is also the fear of not knowing what side the neighbours are in or if they can leave the house.
The resistence is huge and grassroots and
Indigenous, and community organisations are leading it. EveN doctors
have taken to the streets. A the time of writing this, the Bolivian
Workers Central (COB),who reject the coup, has pledged to call for a
general strike and deploy all its affiliated workers to La Paz if
consitunional order is not restored in 24 hours (13th of November
23.00 GMT) . 20 provinces are, I am told, going to La Paz to resist.
Unfortunately, today after midnight GMT, Jeanine
Anez, a right wing senator proclaimed herself president of Bolivia,
clutching a bible, with NO elections but standing by her side were
Luis Camacho, and a leader of the UJC and was approved by the army,
police and the elite. No indigenous people around despite them being
62% of the population. It must be stressed that this goes against
articles 161, 169 and 420 that forbid this categorically.
Make no mistake. In words of Adriana Guzman,
leader of Feminists of Abya Yala (The pre colonial name for what is
now South America in Guna language) “The coup d’etat in Bolivia
is racist, patriarchal, ecclesiastic and oligarch” A very Latin
American coup, then.
Tais is a Mexican Native and activist based in London. She has been part of the student and Indigenous movements in Mexico and has been involved in animal rights, Antifascism and solidarity work in Ireland and the UK for many years.
The Kurds’ reward for defeating ISIS is being sold out to a psychotic dictator. “World’s Greatest Dealmaker” indeed.
Red n Black Salamander has had their work has shown up in
Occupy Wall Street zines, South Korean anti-government pamphlets, Rojava
fundraisers, more anarchist meme pages than they care to count, the
wall of a small hippie diner deep in the Colorado Rockies, and even a
few of the more mainstream liberal publications like Huffington Post and
In September, one of our members got a message from a contact in DAF (revolutionary anarchist action) group, based in Anatolia (I used to refer to DAF as being in Turkey, but I was however corrected when I got there; they see Turkey as the oppressive state, which they want nothing to do with!). I quickly piped up and said how interested I would be in going along, mostly as I had met someone from DAF three years earlier, and had been very impressed by them. Luckily I did not have to fight for the chance to go, and on 11 October, I found myself on a flight from Birmingham to Istanbul.
When I got there, I had
to find my way to one of DAF’s 26A cafés,
based in Taksim (the main district of the European side of Istanbul).
I was going to be picked up, but as the Turkish state had invaded
Northern Syria a few days before, everyone in DAF was at an emergency
meeting. When I got to the 26A café,
I was met by several comrades, who gave me food, tea and a long
explanation of who they were. I was happy that one of them asked
which pronouns I preferred (they/them), and I explained my
appreciation of this; they were shocked to hear how some people who
call themselves feminists are transphobic in the UK, and started to
talk about how this could be possible, also noting how ridiculous
this was! Luckily someone noticed how tired I was, and I was shown
the commune. This was a two-bed flat, with a living room, bathroom
and no kitchen – but as it was based above the 26A café,
they did not need one. I found out that seven people lived here, and
that they had strict rules around cleanliness, and a no-drug policy
because a lot of the local gangs involved with the drugs trade were
in the pockets of the state, and would happily beat up anarchists. I
was given the living room to sleep in, which had a fold-out sofa bed.
That night, I heard the police shouting and probably beating someone
up outside; a regular occurrence, I later found out!
Next morning I was
woken at 8.30am for a shared breakfast (and more tea), where no one
is allowed to start until everyone who is sharing is there. I was
told that there was a Saturday Mother’s protest a few streets over
at 12pm and they wondered if I would come? I replied that I would,
and just before 12, we were off. I was advised to only bring my ID.
On the way there, we were patted down by armed police which held a
line across the narrow street, and just round the corner there were
police in full riot gear lining the side of the street and across it
at both ends. We had to squeeze past them to get into the kettled
demo, which was outside the human rights association, down a back
street. We were handed out pictures of the people who went missing
during the 1980’s and 90’s, these were people who were captured
by the state, tortured and then murdered. The mothers want justice
for their loved ones, and to bring about recognition of
militarisation of the Turkish state, and state violence. I was told
that they had had over 750 protests, and that they used to have their
protests in a square, from which they were banned last year. Each
week they talk about a different person who has been disappeared by
the state. I was also warned that this is the first protest since the
invasion of Northern Syria, and if anyone was to mention it, then the
police would be violent. Most of the people there were elderly, and
many of the mothers have died, never being able to properly say
farewell to their missing love ones, as they were never given their
remains to bury.
The speaker started her
speech, mentioned that this week’s son’s mother had died, so she
would talk on her behalf. Shortly into her speech she mentioned the
invasion, and instantly there was a shout from the police, and they
started pushing forward. At the same time, the police line behind us
moved to block off the street leading towards the big square, leaving
us one escape route. I was grabbed by the arm by one of the comrades
and taken away. They told me that it would be bad for me if my face
was recorded as being there, as a foreigner. We waited round the
corner and saw an older women come round the corner and collapse,
where she was caught and carried into a nearby building by several
protesters. The people I was with walked me away, and we went a long
route back to the café.
I have to admit I was crying at this point as to let out my emotions;
in the UK when we see police violence, as anarchists we usually run
to it, and are able to let out our anger, unless we are massively
outnumbered! But on the mainland UK, the police never use tear gas or
rubber bullets on protesters, as of yet! Anyway, back at the café,
the anarchists sat down and did a write up of the protest and put it
up on social media, sharing the video and pictures that had been
taken. Having the café
enabled them to have a place to meet and write together.
A little while later
that day, we went for a walk down to the harbour and got a boat over
to another district, called Kadiköy,
on the Asian side of Istanbul. After a disorientating walk through
the little crowded streets, we got to the café,
to find that a line of riot vans and cops were filling the street. I
was told this was unusual, and that there must be a game on in the
sports centre on the other side of the street. We sat down at a
table, and more tea was ordered and pasta. We were only a couple of
meters away from a cop armed with a machine gun. Everyone ignored
him, so I tried to as well, though I was very anxious. At this point
I will explain the economics of DAF. The cafés
are volunteer-run, but all the money that they make is communal; it
is for everyone in DAF to pay for what they need to survive, and this
includes rent, bills, clothes, and travel money, etc. If you turn up
to the café as a an
anarchist, the food and drink and free. The rest of the money goes to
paying for their publications and activism. A lot of the members
lived in shared flats which they call communes, but they didn’t
seem crowded, as most of the time everyone hangs out in either of the
two cafés or at their
workshop space. Whenever DAF are running low on money, then they all
go and get work elsewhere for a bit, to help raise the collective
fund. It is rather impressive, especially as they have such a range
of people involved, from young children and those in high school to
workers and older members.
After having our lunch we went to their workshop, a few streets over, passing a few friendly street doggos on the way. People seem to really love the street cats and dogs in Istanbul and leave food and water out for them. In the workshop, I talked to the translator for my talk and explained a few phrases like “cat herding”, in that trying to organise anarchists in the UK is a bit like trying to herd cats; very difficult, this being due to everyone being in separate groups, and the remains of the individualist anarchist ideology. I gave my talk about the AF and anarchism in the UK later that day, but it didn’t seem enough time. There is so much that goes on here, and so many things that have come up that we have had to deal with and learn from. The usual current questions came up (Brexit and Extinction Rebellion), and I went into details on these topics and the problems with them. They seemed to enjoy the talk and we had a picture taken before I ended up in another long talk with my friend Hüsseyin.
This is when I found
out that they do not refer to themselves as Turkish! Oops. We talked
till late and I learnt more about their anarchist theory; in that
they are revolutionary anarchists, holistic (intersectional), and
have long discussions so that everyone is on the same page when it
comes to theory, so that things can be decided by full consensus.
This may seem a long way to do it, but considering we have so many
fallings out and splits in the AF, I am starting to wonder if full
consensus is a better way to do it.
The next day we went to
a memorial back at the workshop. It was in memory of two of their
Ali Kitapci, who
died in a union anti-war meeting in Ankara on 10th
October 2015. The MIT (Turkish state special intelligence), had given
the information about the meeting to ISIS, who suicide-bombed the
meeting. It killed 103 people, and while everyone was trying to help
one another from the building, the police came in and gassed
everyone. It took the first ambulance 30 minutes to arrive. Mercan,
another anarchist told me how Tayfun was like a father to a lot of
them in DAF, he kept trying to tell her to go back to university, as
he never got the chance! Tayfun was father to two of the members of
DAF, both of whom came to the memorial. At the memorial we watched a
short documentary about Tayfun, and they plan on doing documentaries
of all the 103 that were killed. They ended on singing a song about
fallen comrades, and how we must continue fighting.
Afterwards, and with
much more tea, I was told about how DAF have seen the PKK over the
years, from a Marxist organisation, similar to Maoism with Abdullah
Öcalan as their leader,
a nationalist group they could never support, move towards the
democratic confederalism that it practices now. How, after their
leader was imprisoned and the headquarters bombed, the Kurdish people
within the group started to self-organise, have massive protests, and
burn cars. It is now a people’s liberation movement; it’s still not
anarchist, but it’s something that anarchists could get involved with
and help to change. Anarchists in 2009, who founded DAF later in the
same year, were the first to raise an anarchist flag at Newros
(Kurdish new year). They were welcomed, although everyone kept on
asking them who had died, as black is the colour of mourning. Every
year DAF hold Newros celebrations, something that is banned in
Turkey, along with a lot of other cultural things, and many Kurdish
people attend. I should point out at this point that DAF is made up
of people from many different cultures, including a lot of oppressed
ones, and they celebrate these cultures by putting on events for
When war first broke
out in Syria, a lot of refugees fled into Turkey. The Turkish state
responded by going to the border, putting people into camps, bombing
local settlements so people couldn’t stay in them, and by arming
ISIS members. DAF members went to the border and helped people across
the border in both directions; getting those who fled from the war
across the border and deeper into Turkey to avoid the camps, and
those who wanted to go fight for Rojava and other free regions in
Syria. It was difficult, as they had to avoid both the Turkish army
and ISIS, and they also had to find mine-free areas so that they
could help people through.
DAF had the idea to
start up a route for anarchists across Europe to get into Northern
Syria to help rebuild the area and support people there, as well as
push the whole revolution in a more anarchist direction. However in
July 2015, a media declaration of some young anarchists and
socialists, who planned to go and take toys for the children stuck in
Kobanî, and to stay and
help out, was attacked by ISIS, killing 33 people. Not long after
this, the border became more difficult to cross, and is now closed
for people going either direction. Again it is believed that the
Turkish state gave this information to ISIS so that it would be
I also learnt about other campaigns DAF are involved in, like the conscientious objectors. In Turkey if you’re male and in your 20s, you have to do one year of military service. In the years before, a million people might object each year, and would have to go to court to defend themselves. DAF try and find these people and call events to invite them along to, so that they can organise them. DAF have a solicitor member who can help them with these cases. For example, it helps them to say they are a member of a conscientious objectors’ association. If the military court thinks you’re not a conscientious objector, then they may try and make you join the army, or you can go to prison. It is illegal for them to do this, as Turkey signed a European agreement which says that it is a right to conscientiously object, but a lot of people don’t know this, so DAF try to raise awareness. If you’re gay, then you will given a pink paper, which says you’re gay and not a proper man, and that you are sick. One man that they helped refused to take the pink paper, and got six months in prison for it. At the end, he got a different piece of paper that told him he was mentally unwell. These papers mean that is impossible for you to get a state job, such as a nurse or teacher. There is a lot of pressure on young men to join the army, and family have ceremonies, like weddings, for when the young men go off to do their service. Those who are from oppressed cultures, like Kurdish, Armenian and Allavi, are usually sent straight to the front, as the state wants them to die. It has become more difficult for DAF to organise conscientious objectors as Erdoğan (the fascist president of Turkey) changed the law on military service to one month if you pay £30,000 Turkish Lira (about £5,000), which is a lot of money for people, or you can do only eight months if you graduate from university. Despite the expense of this, it seems like many have taken it, and there are only around 200,000 objectors each year now.
DAF also do a lot of
prison support. From the 60s to the 80s, the left were big in Turkey.
A lot of people were unionised and the syndicalist unions were
strong. Because of this, a coup happened, and one of the first things
the coup wanted to do was to separate the political prisoners from
the normal prisoners. As you can expect, there was a lot of protest
about this inside and outside the prisons, as they were good places
to organise people. Prisoners went on hunger strike, took over the
prisons and threatened to kills the guards. The state responded by
knocking down the walls and ceilings of the prisons, and throwing in
chemical weapons; many were killed or lost limbs in the attacks. The
two types of prisons were installed, and that system remains today. I
was assured that, despite losing the ability to organise prisoners,
it makes it not so bad to go to prison, as you end up in ones which
you’re politically aligned to. So, as an anarchist you go to
anarchist prison, a great way to meet each other and develop
anarchist theory and write articles. It is still a prison though, and
since Erdoğan got into
power (and the coup against him, and following state of emergency),
the prisons have become overcrowded, and prisoners’ rights seem to
have been neglected. Prison rooms built for three people now house
15. Letters never get to prisoners, and visitors are denied. DAF try
and support those prisoners who protest these conditions. Recently a
Kurdish anarchist comrade went on death strike due to being kept in
an overcrowded cell, in the wrong prison (he wasn’t in an anarchist
one), and not being allowed to see his family. Due to the publicity
given to him by DAF and his death strike, his demands were met and he
is now with comrades and allowed to see people. Umat told DAF of a
trans-woman prisoner who is being kept in a male prison and they are
helping her try to get re-located into a women’s prison. The
comrade that told me all of this can no longer go into the prison to
visit people, as he is worried that he will get grabbed and sent into
I learnt a little bit
about the other groups within DAF, the high school group who fight
against exams, the women’s group who fight for so many things as
patriarchy is worse there than in the UK. It seems very common for
women to get beaten by fathers and by husbands. No-one will rent to
you if you’re an unmarried couple, or if you’re sharing a house with
friends. They also have an ecology group; a subject very close to
their hearts. And they have a kids’ group; they do workshops for
kids, including one on how to make films! Their newspaper collective,
which publishes every month, spends a week writing and editing, and
then another week going to different places to hand them out. They
also have several others I didn’t have much time to find out about.
Each group it seems has their own magazine and website. I later found
out that DAF came together in 2009, forming out of several of these
groups. Each group meets weekly, and once a week they have a 9am to
11pm meeting where everyone in DAF comes along, and discusses ideas
and plans for the week and upcoming events. They have several talks a
month, including talks by internationals like the one I did. They
have even invited famous scholars like Dennis Fox, a critical
psychologist who I myself have been influenced by.
On my last day, I got a tour of Gezi park and other places of interest to an anarchist. I saw the main streets with their tall buildings, built by Amenians who were then killed or deported by the Turkish state. I also saw the square where the Saturday Mothers used to protest, where now a new building stands, and the rest is cut up by a road, or fenced off with a armoured vehicles filled with armed police inside. They showed me the Ottoman Bank, which was occupied and bombed by Armenian anarchists in 1986. Then there is Gezi park, where massive protests of up to one million people took place, due to Erdoğan wanting to build on it; thought it was saved, it is now cornered off at one end by armoured vehicles. That end, I was told, is where a lot of the main clashes happened with the police. I was shown the cafés which doubled as medical stations; all the doctors and nurses that helped the protesters there lost their jobs, following the 15 day protests. I was shown the patch of grass which was dug up so people could plant pepper and tomato seeds; though none of them took, as it wasn’t long enough! The site where the cultural building used to stand, formerly occupied by the protesters has since been knocked down, due its history of having banners hung from it. And finally, my guide
showed me the new big mosque being built on Taksim Square, intended
mostly as a bit of a fuck you to the protesters!
To be honest I am rather amazed by DAF. They are very well-organised, and have done so many great and inspiring actions. I feel that they have something that we lack in anarchism in the UK; they are co-ordinated and have political cohesion. I feel that the economy that they have, where everything is shared and being able to be together, enables them to have long discussions and respond quickly to things that happen. This may be out of necessity, as things in the Middle East (their words) are a lot more difficult for them than they are here in the western world. Seeing what they are achieving makes me want to replicate what they do, and makes me adamant that we must be more organised. If we were as organised as them, and with the amount of anarchists we have here, I feel that we would have a very strong movement. ■ Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet – Revolutionary Anarchist Action -DAF
Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica,
Bolivia… and counting.
The triggers might be
different but they all have more than our blood in common. Every
struggle in the region is connected. Decades of oppression, poverty,
inequality, femicide, discrimination, racism, draconian economic
measures imposed by US backed neo-liberal governments, who are still
selling our resources and displacing Indigenous peoples, and who have
no qualms about using the full strength of the army and police force
to repress our people and imprison, torture, disappear and kill
anyone who dares protest. Students, Indigenous Nations and Afro
descendent, , Workers, Women, LGBTQ people.
We can examine the
causes of the uprisings in each country, created by colonisers to
separate us, but in a way the triggers are just the tip of the
iceberg. It is much bigger than that. It goes back to the invasion
and genocide but we can just focus on recent years.
We need to be clear
that Ecuador is not just out in the streets because of the rise of
fuel prices, Chile is not on strike just because of the hike on
public transport fares, Mexico is not just destroying itself because
of a few bad narcos, Haiti has grown fed up with extreme poverty,
Honduras is not just about the fact that the US approved president’s
brother is involved in a drug dealing scandal.
Our continent never
truly decolonised mentally and in practice. The Indigenous Nations
and Afro descendants never benefited from the processes of
independence despite shedding our blood in the wars, which were led
by criollos (white children of Spanish born in Latin America), the
Natives were cannon fodder and abandoned when it was tie to re
distribute the lands and profits. Even now, communities and whole
towns are being forcibly displaced and even decimated, to make way
for Canadian, US, and British mining and fracking companies, whose
revenue does not stay in Latin America. And the caste system imposed
by the conquistadores never disappeared. White people still rule,
Mestizos work for them, Indigenous people are in poverty and suffer
great levels of racism, Afro descendants are 4th class
citizens, their histories forgotten, even in the classrooms.
The other big issue is
how they rule us and educate us. Corruption is ingrained in every
sphere. The ruling class is openly there to serve themselves. Fraud
in electoral processes has always been the norm and we are resigned
somehow. If any government makes real progress for the working class,
they are murdered, like Chile’s Allende, or charges are made up to
imprison and establish a far right government, Like Lula in Brazil
who is locked up with false charges of corruption which led to
Bolsonaro’s victory. Venezuela, Bolivia, and, of course Cuba, have
emancipated their countries and gone to a mediatic war with the US
and suffer blockades and even attempts of coup d’etat.
That is briefly the
context where we move now. The eruption of protests in all the
continent are not shocking or out of the blue. And the protests are
radical. There are sectors who have even been traditionally
conciliatory and centrist that have now been radicalised, more so
because of the fascist-like response of all the governments, which
are right wing like in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Chile.
Indigenous peoples are
now leading the struggle, and they refuse to be forgotten and
tokenised any more. They are fighting for all, and to get the rights
to their ancestral lands and stop the destruction of the environment
and the theft of our resources. They are keeping our culture alive
Ecuadorian indigenous are being killed, the media is silent,
willingly or shut down with guns. And little coverage has been done
in the West even by the Left. Haiti has been out in the streets for
seven weeks and the no one knows. The work of the capitalist system
is not just killing people in protests but in the mind of the people.
Derogation of blame, dehumanisation, devaluation.
It is true the cartels
in Mexico and Central America control a big part of some cities and
villages. Narcos are barbaric in their fight against each other and
many innocent people have been victims, murdered or kidnapped, or
coerced into working for them. This has always been the case. But, as
a child growing up in Mexico, the level of drug related crime was
minimum, and , not glorifying them here, they built roads and helped
towns when the Neo-liberal governments refused to even open schools.
In the 2000s this
changed with President Calderon, not just in Mexico, as the US
blessed the so called war on drugs which escalated on a war against
civilians and anyone not complaint. Nine women are killed a day,
children are being recruited, people kidnapped. The fallacy is the
government is taking action. The government are the narcos. And the
police and army are involved to the core.
In South America the
narrative has been simplistic claiming the revolts are about fare
hikes or petrol. It is not, as I previously stated. In Chile’s 40
year old ‘new democracy’ they have suffered cuts and austerity in
health, education and pensions. 30% of the income is in the hands of
1% of the people. Water is privatised, constitution is from Pinochet
times. 10% of the state’s copper industry goes to the armed
forces, and Pinera’s right wing government has gone from promoting
Chile as an ‘oasis’ ‘a miracle’ to ‘we are at war with a
powerful enemy” in one week. A very unequal “War” that has
weapons and repression on one side and pots and pans on the other.
All the governments
facing rebellions now have, obviously, blamed Venezuela and Cuba,
easy escape, but in one way, Pinera is right in one single thing. The
enemy is powerful: It is the Chilean people. All the Latin American
people are rising and this time I doubt they are going to stop till
we are truly free from oppressive governments and USA and FMI
Solidaridad! Venceremos!! ■
Tais is a Mexican Native and activist based in London. She has been part of the student and Indigenous movements in Mexico and has been involved in animal rights, Antifascism and solidarity work in Ireland and the UK for many years.
Through the latter half of of September there was a wave of protests in Lebanon starting from Beirut’s Martyr’s Square and heading to the Parliament building at Nejmeh Square with the intent to break through the security barriers and kick the corrupt government out.
These protests follow a vast economic crisis proceeded over by a minority governments lining it’s own pockets. Lebanon has been governed by a sect-based political system that has stood unchanged since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1991 and despite the waves of action during the Arab Spring in 2011, the government remains in control with an iron grip and a black heart.
Whether Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites or Druze, the working class Lebanese all face a new wave of taxes and a faltering economy. The daily reality of no food in the cupboards and no water in the taps left them with only one choice. They took to the streets to protest for a decent existence, only to find themselves dealing with horrific police brutality.
In the middle of this there is a relatively new group taking to the streets, organising and sharing the politics of Anarchism, they are named Kefah! or Struggle. They formed in December last year as “big tent” collective of Anarchist comrades ( including Anarchist Communists, Mutualists, Anarcho Vegans and Syndicalists) and quickly became an active part of the alliance of opposition to the government and subsequently the current wave of demonstrations.
They told Organise! “our short term aim is to overthrow the current corrupted oligarchy taking over Lebanon and our long term goal is to achieve anarchism in Lebanon and the region, either by building independent communes, or by transforming all the society into an anarchist one” .
You can get in contact via their Social Media account Here.■
Here is their statement of intent in English with the Arabic below.
KAFEH! or Struggle! is an Anarchist Movement whose goal is to achieve a decentralized society without authority , and who upholds the values of liberty, social justice, egalitarianism, and secularism.
word “KAFEH!” is an Arabic briefing of the term: ”
Effective Free Anarchist Cadres “.
The Premise of the movement is Anarchy or Libertarian Anti-Authoritarianism.
“KAFEH!” Movement rejects the authoritarian patriarchal dominant system in Lebanon which is a centralized establishment that incites sectarianism, and greedy capitalism in order to support allocating quotas , exploitation , and splitting power, resources and public wealth.
seeks to change the current status quo of the system into an extendeddecentralization
consisting of small local communities (communes),
choosing its own self ruling system, respecting liberty , social
“KAFEH!” aims to minimize the state’s duties to the collection of taxes from each & every community in order to provide social services and infrastructure equally distributed amongst all communities.
“KAFEH!” supports the principle of absolute individual freedom in life choices, beliefs, opinion, expression , ideas , and other principles based on the declaration of human rights.
insists on the necessity to change the current system by all its
considers that any form of change can’t be true if it doesn’t
the protection of fauna and flora expressed by a pact amongst all
“KAFEH!” declares itself the protector of the weak and of the oppressed, as well as of victims of injustice practiced by the current authoritarian patriarchal dominant system.
أناركية هدفها الوصول إلى مجتمع لا
سلطوي، مدافع عن قيم التحرّر والعدالة
الاجتماعية والمساواة والعلمانية
مختصر للعبارة التالية:
أناركية فاعلة حرّة”. •
الأساسي للمجموعة هو الأناركية أو
اللاسلطوية التحررية. •
السلطوي الأبوي في لبنان والعالم,
الحاكمة القائمة، وهي منظومة سلطة
مركزية ورجعية متناقضة فيما بينها تقوم
على التحريض السياسي والطائفي والمناطقي,
تأبيد التحاصص والاستغلال وتقاسم الثروة
والمرافق العامة. •
استبدال نظام الدولة المركزية القائم
بمجتمع لا سلطوي قائم على اللامركزية
الموسعة، مكون من مجتمعات صغيرة تختار
شكل الإدارة الذي تريده لذاتها، تربط
فيما بينها إدارة لا سلطوية.
الحثيث من أجل ترسيخ قيم التحرر والعدالة
عن الدولة المركزية,
إدارياً غير سياسي يقتصر دوره على جباية
الضرائب من مختلف المجتمعات من أجل تأمين
التقديمات الاجتماعية للجميع,
المستلزمات والخدمات والبنى التحتية
بالتساوي بين المجتمعات المختلفة. •
حرية الفرد المطلقة في الخيارات الحياتية
وفي التعبير والعقيدة وكافة مبادئ
الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان,
الحق في العمل,
ما يحفظ الكرامة الإنسانية. •
ضرورة إلغاء السلطة بأسرها بكل قيمها
ودعائمها ومبررات وجودها. •
أي مشروع تغييري ليس جذرياً بما فيه
الكفاية إذا لم يتضمن الحفاظ على الكائنات
الحية من حيوان ونبات,
عبر عقد بيئي توقّع عليه وتلتزم به جميع
ضحايا التهميش والقمع والاضطهاد، بالدفاع
عن قضايا جميع الذين تضعهم قيم النظام
السلطوي الأبوي في أدنى درجات التهميش
The follow is a Report on the NO PASARAN! demonstration of September 14th from comrades with the Anarchist Political Organisation (APO) of Greece.
Saturday, September 14th,
the crowded demonstration against police occupation and drug-mafias
in Exarcheia, the pogrom against refugees and immigrants and their
displacement from the neighborhood, the repression of squats,
self-organized spaces of struggle and social and class resistance
took place. This demo marks the completion of a first round of
mobilizations within the wider campaign which was called by the NO
PASARAN! assembly, in which we are participating along with the K*
Vox squat, the squats from immigrants and refugees Notara 26 and
Spirou Trikoupi 17 – one the squats that was evicted-, the
anarchist antiauthoritarian social space Antipnoia, the
Self-organized social space of Galatsi Stegastro, Class Coutnerattack
(group of anarchists and communists), the anarchist collective of
students Arodamos and individual comrades. Many comrades and
collectives from Greece and internationally responded to this
campaign and organized many solidarity actions and mobilizations.
Over seven thousand people of the struggle, anarchists and antiauthoritarians responded to NO PASARAN! call which was supported by many other calls of political, social and class collectives, amongst which the base unions’ call to a common bloc, and filled the streets of the center of Athens. During the demonstration, we distributed many flyers and shouted slogans such as “No step behind, no submission, let’s crush repression on the streets”, “Everybody in the streets and the squares, Police and drug-mafias out of Exarcheia”, “We are together with immigrants, refoulement of cops and mafias”, “Solidarity is the weapon of the people, war against the war of the bosses”, “The right is on the revolted’s side, not on the side of the submitted and the snitches”, “war against the cops and the drug-mafias, we will not let the squares to be turned into butcher houses” and slogans related to the commemoration of the six years from the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by Nazis of Golden Dawn. The large number of demonstrators, the dynamics and the pulse of the mobilization, is an astounding response to the repressive operation of the state but also to the ideological propaganda of the media which attempt to isolate and criminalize those who do not submit and are still resisting against the anti-social and repressive plans of the state and the capital.
Just after the end of the demonstration in Exarcheia square, the state unleashed, as a response, a brutal attack of the riot police in the near-by streets, beating violently and suffocating by teargas many people who had either participated in the demonstration or were just coming by. During this attack, four youngsters were detained randomly among others and were later charged with unsubstantial fabricated accusations. The conspiracy which was staged against them is a blatant persecution of political motivation in an attempt to terrorize the people of the struggle and reverse the wave of class and social solidarity which was expressed earlier. If they believe that they can intimidate and repress resistance they are mistaken.
The grand mobilization of September 14th is a valuable outcome for the movement in the future, a barricade for the collective defense of the structures and the people of the struggle and the social and class resistance in general. But also it is a first step towards the direction of organizing our social and class counter-attack, for the overturn of the world of authority, for Social Revolution, for Anarchy and Libertarian Communism. ■
THE STATE’S REPRESSIVE CAMPAIGN
NO SURRENDER – NO TRUCE!
PS1: The four people arrested in Exarcheia on 9/14 were released.
PS2: Few days after the big demonstration, the state continues its repressive attack invading and evicting two housing squats for refugees and immigrants in Athens, and removing the political kiosk from Exarcheia square, a structure of the struggle against state repression, drug-mafias and social cannibalism.
In 2018 a man from Hong Kong murdered his girlfriend while on vacation in Taiwan. The horrible crime would soon become the spark of resistance in Hong Kong to the authority of the Chinese Mainland in protests that would confuse comrades the world over.
Let’s make the situation clearer.
Hong Kong is not a democracy. It has no free elections.
While “democracy” here in the UK maybe nothing more than a shallow mockery of the concept, now more than ever, in Hong Kong it is seen as the last line of defence from an ever encroaching empire. The Chinese Communist Party has no use for any system which would threaten it’s grasp, it is moving in to deliver the killing blow to freedom in Hong Kong which is aims to bring into the fold. Hongkongers are being passed from one empire to another and the world shrugs it’s shoulders. China is an economic power house, pissing them off would be bad for business.
When we talk about Hong Kong fighting for “democracy” we cannot frame it in our own context. It is a colony population fighting for the rights to self determination and autonomy. For older generations this means appealing to the former colonial masters for help, for the younger it means revolutionary action. In 2012 the political drive for democracy dried up and ground to a halt, It seemedd that Pre-Screening of electoral candidates by Beijing would increase. Resistance to this grew into the Occupy Central with Love and Peace camps and associated Umbrella Movement which saw tens of thousands holding protests and living in camps on main intersections for months in a campaign to bring about universal suffrage. During the attempts to clear out protestors the police would use tear gas and when local television broadcasted a young man named Ken Tsang being assaulted by police there was an massive escalation. Ken was carried off with his hands tied behind his back; then, while one officer kept watch, a group of about six officers punched, kicked and stamped on him for about four minutes.
The Chief Executive CY Leung would go on to defend Beijing’s screening policy as open elections would force Hong Kong into actually caring for it’s citizens and providing social welfare, he argued that “If it’s entirely a numbers game, then obviously you’d be talking to half the people in Hong Kong earning less than US$1,800 a month (the median wage). You would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”
The world gave Hong Kong silence. Standing against China is bad for business.
It was indeed bad for business under the British who occasionally flirted with the idea during their tenure of control over Hong Kong as China has always sought to “preserve the colonial status of Hong Kong” even threatening to “liberate” the region in 1960 if democratic elections and thus self governance ever granted. Tho some there were some small developments in the 80’’s and 90’s, the Hongkongers remain citizens trapped in a system they had very little voice in. The chief executive who would govern Hong Kong after the hand over was elected by a 400 member selection committee. China began it’s programme of colonisation.
Let us speak clearly here, China is not a communist country.
It is a brutal state authority where economic disparity is celebrated and used to throttle it’s working class into obedience. Since Deng Xiaopeng took over in 1978 the CCP as all but abandoned it’s aspirations of becoming a Marxist-Leninist workers state. In 2000 this would become policy as Jiang Zemin brought in the “Three Represents” and took the nation in pursuit of a ‘socialist market economy’ with Chinese characteristics.”. Now China has 476 of the world billionaires while the average monthly salary of the worker is around £780 a month. The means of production are in the hands of private corporations and spills out everywhere. Eduction and Healthcare are privileges of the elite. China #1 is the goal and the workers best be willing to suffer for it or be considered enemies of the all powerful state.
Under Xi Jinping this has meant a radical growth in Nationalism under the guise of a “cultural revival”, a broad sweeping facial recognition and a monitoring network » that makes 1984’s Ingsoc look like rank amateurs and has seen overt and hostile moves to consolidate China and to bring about “Complete National Reunification ”, something it was made clear he approaches with teeth bared in his statements to Taiwan in January this year; “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means”. Like all nation states, the authority demand obedience and domination. This is something they maintain in Hong Kong through the Electoral Affairs Commission which pre-screens candidates for the Legislative Council for their political beliefs and by ensure that the The Chief Executive is selected by small body of (now) 1200 people.
This Chinese sock puppet government upon seeing the situation with the murder in Taiwan and under the guise of stopping Hong Kong from becoming a safe haven from criminals moved to install The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. This bill would allow China to extradite certain criminals and run them through the radically different legal system in the mainland. One which is controlled by the CCP. This doesn’t come without precedent mind. In March 2017 the Chinese state kidnapped pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-Che saying he was under investigation on “suspicion of harming national security.”. He later plead guilty to “subverting state power” which it’s believed he was forced into.
So they begin to forward a bill many fear will be used to allow China to drag them away in the night. Resistance started on the 31st of March when the Civil Human Rights Front, an organisation composed of some 50 pro-democracy groups, launched it’s first protest against The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. It was a civil march through the city of 12,000 people. The following March on the 28th saw 500,000.
These were acts of civil disobedience but the tension was building and Ahead of the second reading of the bill organisers called for a return to demonstration on the 9th June.
Four hours after the march began, people were still leaving the start point at Victoria Park. Well over a million marched and a great many of them did not return home. Autonomists, students and pro-independence campaigners began to camp out in front of the Government headquarters. This was the moment where things changed, around midnight, the police forces Special Tactical Squad (STS) moved in and clashes broke out and mass protests took place through the night.
Come the 12th and the second reading, everyone was out. From the unions and opposition groups, to student networks and Anarchist affinity groups. The variety of political positions was vast but they came unified in opposition the the Bill and the Chinese state undermining their political agency. By 4pm the police had began using pepper spray and attacking people,and shooting tear gas on them. The Hong Kong protests as we see them on the news had begun.
Over the next three weeks there would be numerous protests from strikes, sit in and even the odd siege of police stations. The lawyers held a silent march, the legislature was raided, there was a laser festival and the airport was sat in. Whether peaceful or militant it was quite clear there was a strong sense of political unity, which over time would develop into tactical unity. The protests were organised organically, without leadership and without any singular faction taking control somewhat confusing the world media. Around the world it seems people were confused, were they pro-capitalists? Nationalist? Unions? Or even Anarchists?… The answer is yes.
Beyond all the “riot porn” and unexpected but enjoyable guides to “protesting like Hongkongers” movements such as this are diverse. It doesn’t matter if some groups waves the Stars and stripes and the sinophobic right wing of America loose their shit or if the budget is there for full page ads in newspapers around the world. The movement is diverse and at it’s core working class and grass roots.
This is the nature of a popular rebellion and like the Mouvement des gilets jaunes, they have endeavoured to maintain this and keep it grass roots. There has been two forms of protests; first there is the the civil marches full of the usual flags,placards, banners and liberal calls for democracy, they do well bringing in thousands and keeping an approachable voices to the movement. Secondly there is the direct protest actions such as holding of barricades, blocking roads and it has seen the development of new a hit and run methodology, a tactic commonly referred to as “be water”.
It’s worth noting as well that as a general rule of thumb during the more radical protests, it has become the standard practice to take down any flags and hand them back to their owner and disapprove of having their movement represented with either flags of foreign powers or local organisations. The exception to this seems to be the Black Bauhinia flag, which has come to symbolise the protests.
Along the way five demands began to present themselves.
withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process
of the “riot” characterisation
and exoneration of arrested protesters
of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use
of force during the protests
the Legislative Council and begin the implementation of universal
It is on these these demands that they have come to organise and identity their collective action. It’s on these demands they are beginning to see a response as Carrie Lam moved to withdraw the bill on the 4th of September. She also requested that protestors end their demonstrations and enter into dialogue with the government. This is code for “please allow us time to re-group, hunt down leaders and remove your revolutionary agency”.
The protestors would have none of it.
At the Citizens Press Conference the next night, the young protestors and armed with helmets and masked up gave their reply in three languages. The spoke with passion and dedication to their cause and made their position on Lam’s offer of a truce clear.
“If Carrie Lam had withdrawn the bill two months ago, that may have been a quick fix, but applying a band-aid months later on to rotting flesh will simply not cut it … Liberate Hong Kong, The revolution of our times, five demands not one less. Fight on and take care fellow Hongkongers”
We cannot afford to be trapped in our anarchistic dogma as working class comrades around the world suffer brutality at the hands of the state or as they are forced to live in unjust societies with neither voice nor liberty. We must be overt and vocal in our solidarity and where capable take action in support of their cause. Not as allies but as accomplices and together we fight back against all the evil empires and hopefully sharing our notions of Anarchism as we go providing a better option for this world we are building. Heck, even if you are fundamentally hostile to the liberal protest for democracy, know that our Anarchist comrades are out there on the streets, defending their comrades regardless, defending their communities from the police and the government. Give them your love and solidarity until they win this struggle.
On Monday the 26th of August, the Greek police launched a large operation in Exarcheia, the famous rebel district in the centre of Athens. This is a unique place in Europe for its high concentration of squats and other self-organised spaces, but also for its resistance against repression and solidarity with migrants and the precariat.
Early in the morning, the squats of Spirou Trikoupi 17, Gare, Rosa de Fon and Transito were surrounded by huge police forces: anti-riot police, anti-terrorism police and secret police. The police then launched a large repression operation, leading to over 100 arrests. Migrants have been sent to camps known for inhuman living conditions. More than 15 kids that grew up in Athens and had their life there were deported. The security forces are now walling up the buildings that used to be home to so many.
This operation aimed to directly attack the incredible solidarity efforts that were developed by a network of people, many of them anarchists, to cope with the austerity measures the Greek state and the EU implemented. It aimed to destroy a neighbourhood that has invented a new world where it has been possible to exist and live regardless of your economical, social or cultural background. It aimed to keep Exarcheia under the control of a violent state that, like the rest of Europe, is ready to put humans in camps, simply because they were born on the other side of a border.
Exarcheia has many other squats, around 20, but the newly elected Greek prime minister promised a complete “cleaning”. More battles are to come.
The Anarchist Federation is expressing its full support to everyone in Exarcheia.
For a future without state, police or borders. ■
Additional from the Editor:- Since this morning when the evictions took place Spirou Trikoupi 17 put out the call for people to gather and have taken a stand.
” Here, in Spirou Trikoupi 17 we have lived more than 2.000 people, coming from more than 10 different countries, and that we have crossed, at least, 3 borders till here. This wall that the state is building to seal the entrance will never be able to stop us! See you at 6pm the solidarity assembly towards the squats in Notara 26 “
Since the evictions police have rounded up immigrants who will be dragged through the system and government workers have bricked up the doorways to peoples homes. As night has fallen the police have taken a aggressive stance against the locals and tooled up with riot gear have taken to the streets for what is sure to be yet another night of horrific state violence.
On the 7th of July a young man called Ayed Hamad Moudath took his own life after the government of Kuwait denied him civil documentation, which is needed to access public services, as well as to study and work. They did so because he is Bidoon, a social class of Kuwait and the other five states that form The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) area, defined by their status as “stateless”.
The word “Bidoon” itself means “without” in Arabic, (taken from bidoon jinsiya “without nationality”) and they form a social class that is now defined as “illegal residents” and are subsequently personae non gratae. This means Bidoons are refused access to work, education, healthcare and all the benefits afforded to their rest of people of Kuwait. The estimates for the number of Bidoon in Kuwait vary from 85,000 to some 300,000 with sources finding more solid numbers around 150,000. The wild swing in figures is due to the lack of information collected and their position at “stateless”.
Six days later, to mourn his passing and to call on the government to recognise the equal rights of Bidoons, the community organised a peaceful sit in at al-Hurriya Square in al- Jahra, just outside Kuwait City. The police rolled in heavy and arrested 15 activists, their names added to the list of those arrested the day before in raids on the homes of organisers of previous sit ins and human rights activists. These were subsequently followed by yet more arrests the day after, and one particular arrest, of a stateless Bidoon activist named Mohammed Khudair, reportedly led to him being buried up to his head in the sand and tortured.
The charges against the activists included spreading fake news, harming allied countries, joining a group that calls for the destruction of the country’s basic systems, calling for attacking national interests, calling for public gatherings, participating in public gatherings, and use of cellphones for abusive purposes. This attitude towards civil demonstration in the relatively liberal country is enshrined in the legal framework of Kuwait as Article 12 of the 1979 Public Gatherings Law which bars non-Kuwaitis from participating in public gatherings. Kuwait’s brutal response to protests has even lead to the Human Rights Committee of the UN to note that “… it remains concerned at reports that the State party unduly restricts freedom of peaceful assembly and that security forces have dispersed peaceful demonstrations with excessive and disproportionate uses of force.”
The Bidoons have been trapped in near sixty years of administrative ethnic cleansing as the world, as it so often does, remains quiet. An inconvenient reality from one of the UK’s main trade partners with some £3.5 billion in mutual trade in 2018 alone. This includes the shipments of Arms with Kuwait being one of the “priority markets” for the UK’s Department for International Trade’s Defence & Security Organisation (DSO) and being a repeat attendee of the marketplace for death that is London’s Defence & Security Equipment International Expo.
So how did we get here?Heck, you won’t need two guesses.
This horrendous state of affairs is the residue of colonialism and empire building.
The history of the Arabian peninsula is as horrific at Europe from conflict between warring empires, nations and tribes and come the turn of the last century the principle tussle was between the British and Ottoman Empires. The fine details could fill tomes but In a short run down of the colonial barbarity…
Kuwait City had been a protectorate of the British since 1899, a move to deter Ottoman invasion, giving Britain exclusive access and trade with Kuwait, and excluded Iraq to the north from a port on the Persian Gulf. The Ottomans controlling what would later become the State of Iraq, were now effectively land locked in the region.
In 1913 the Ottomans and British got together to discuss the future of Kuwait. Lines were drawn on the map. They ruled that Shaikh Mubarak had independent authority over an area extending out to a radius of 80 km from the capital, a red circle was drawn. He would also be able to claim taxes from the native tribes people who lived within a further addition of 100km in radius, indicated with a green circle. This belligerent act of empire was ignorant of the Bedouins nomadic nature, their sovereignty and liberty.It ignored the geography and anthropology. No, the lines had been drawn, what were these heathen tribes to their greater wisedom? Thus it was so.
At the same time to the South West, Ibn Saud was building a kingdom through the military mighty of the Wahabbi clerics of The Ikhwan, a fundamentalist force mostly comprised of nomad tribes people from the interior Najd region. Tensions were at their peak with border raids commonplace as Saudia Arabia began to form.
During this time The Great War with it’s wholesale murder would see the fall of the Ottoman empire leaving a power vacuum in the region which would lead to the Kuwait-Najd war (1919-1920) and the installation of Faisal I as king of Iraq on the advice of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) as a puppet of the British.
The hinterland between these three Empires was blurry and ill defined and that simply would not do. The border of the Ibn Saud’s domain and Kuwait were established by the Uqair Protocol of 1922. Kuwait was given no say in matters. The British and Al Saud decided modern-day Kuwait’s borders. A year later on 1 April 1923, Shaikh Ahmad al-Sabah of Kuwait wrote the British Political Agent in Kuwait, Major John More, “I still do not know what the border between Iraq and Kuwait is, I shall be glad if you will kindly give me this information.” and thus the arbitrary lines on the map were formalised and the border of Kuwait were finalised.
Iraq became independent in 1931 and when in 1938 oil was discovered in Kuwait it placed a claim to the region. When in 1961 Kuwait gained independence from the British, Iraq mobilised it’s forces and invaded six days later.
They were rebuffed, first by British forces and then by The Arab League and in 1963 Iraq recognised Kuwait and thus began twenty years of booming economic and consolidation of the borders. These borders split apart lands which had been wandered by bedouin tribes and communities which had lived and worked the land since day dot. Shortly after, in 1965 Kuwait held a registration/census for citizenship for this now secure and independent nation. Those who did not register were designated as Bidoon. Overwhelmingly these communities had very little notion of “nation” or “citizenship” coming from an entirely different world and these concepts being quite different to their tribal and nomadic heritage. There was also widespread illiteracy which combined with a complex change in the laws and little support or provision made to ease this transition for the tribal communites meant that hundreds of thousands simply did not register into the now sovereign nation.
At the same time Kuwait began populating it’s military and police forces (as well as it’s oil fields) with workers from elsewhere in the peninsula as there was little uptake from Kuwaiti nationals for these roles. To provide a smoke screen for their dubious recruitment policies these workers were also designated as Bidoon forming a second, smaller category. The stateless workforce of expendables for a time benefited from the booming economy and were instrumental in building Kuwait into a strong economic power, despite the lack of citizenship Bidoons were afforded relative equality for a time. Later the Kuwait government would deliberatly obfuscate the situation of the Bidoon and “they are foreign nationals” would be something projected on the entire Bidoon community.
Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, social divides and sectarian conflicts began to present themselves, these became more prominent during the Iraq-Iran war the following year when refugees and Iraqis fleeing conscription would join the Bidoon communities. The policies started to change towards the oppressive and as the economy began to downturn Bidoons were declared “illegal residents” in 1986. So began mass deportations, overt oppression at the hands of the Kuwaiti government and policies that amount to administrative ethnic cleansing.
Bidoons, whether those who descended from unregistered tribes people, economic migrants or even those who as were born to Kuwaiti mothers and Bidoon fathers ( Kuwait’s nationality laws mean citizenship is passed through patrilineal lines) were now surplus to requirements and faced a hostile environment at every level.
This systematic prejudice was only to snowball after the Persian Gulf War which started in August 1990 and ended the following February. At the start of the conflict Bidoons made up the majority of the army and were an easy scapegoat after the military capitulated to the occupying forces, on top of this some Bidoons fought alongside the Iraqi forces (It’s claimed many were infact forced to fight) and this was all the excuse they needed to begin a purge. The government dismissed Bidoons from the military en masse, refugees were prevented from returning and yet more were held in detention centres. The official population of Bidoons in Kuwait went from some 250,000 to 100,000 pretty much overnight, this is before counting up the thousands who are excluded from such figures.
The fight for equality and recognition has been ongoing since. A law in 2000 permitted the naturalization provided they could show that they were registered in the 1965 census. However, it has been reported that only a small number of Bidoon have been able to acquire nationality through this process, and these were predominately those with wealth or connections. The yearly quota of 2,000 naturalizations, as stipulated by the law, was never met. Since 2011, the Central System for the Remedy of Situations of Illegal Residents, the administrative body in charge of Bidoon affairs, has started issuing temporary ID cards. Some have been able to obtain green ID cards or ‘reference’ cards (bitaqaat muraja’a). Others, whom the government considers to have foreign origins or similar issues, have received yellow or red cards. These cards can be used for limited purposes, such as registering for private schools or health insurance. They are not, however, comparable to the civil ID cards issued to Kuwaiti citizens and legal residents, and some Bidoon feel that the colour coding system is stigmatizing.
For many gaining these cards, and thus access to basic services, means renouncing their claim to Kuwaiti citizenship by confirming a foreign nationality and accept a permanent limitation on their rights. Of the currentBidoons in Kuwait (In excess of a hundred thousand easily), Around 40,000 of these have civil documentation with the rest existing in a bureaucratic limbo. Do you give up your rights of equality in your community by petitioning for a document that would allow you to work and survive capitalism or do you exist in the hinterland of legality using a fake passport to get employment hoping that the government continue to turn a blind eye to them and that you don’t get deported in the next wave of expulsion of “illegal aliens”.
All this creates a vast underclass that is socially, culturally and politically oppressed. As is often the case in marginalized communities, Bidoon girls and women have been particularly vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. They have faced sexual harassment from government officials while applying for documentation. At the same time, the government has failed to protect Bidoon women, whose marriages are often unregistered, from obtaining their legal rights upon divorce.
In February 2011 some 1000 Bidoon took to the streets to call for their right to be citizens in the first major protest for recognition. They were met with tear gas, water cannons and smoke bombs. Some 50 were arrested and 30 were injured. Some of those detained were tortured and sexually abused and this pattern of brutality from the Kuwait state has been repeated time and time again which brings us to the present situation.
Most Bidoon in Kuwait still lack legal residence permits and the access to employment, education, healthcare and other rights that should be the basic minimal for all people. This is a position kept in place by the Kuwaiti governments refusal to acknowledge that the vast majority of Bidoon have always lived in Kuwait, they would rather obfuscate the issue by forcing people to take on foreign national status which allows them to undermine the rights of their citizens. Their plight is something that has been felt by people the world over who have been seen as other, stateless and surplus. From the the struggles of black people in the US, the administrative disregard of the Ainu in Japan to the millennia of oppression felt by the Irish.
Don’t worry tho, The Kuwait government in it’s infinite wisdom has now allowed the descendants of the former Bidoon soldiers to join the army. This solitary offer of stable income proved popular… given that for many the option is service or poverty it’s to be expected. The state calling in it’s surplus humanity to do their bidding for scraps to eat. Pitting the oppressed against each other perpetually and undermining the communities ability to survive in it’s own right. Populating the security forces with members of your must vunerable or “promblematic” communities is a tool used by governments world wide to control the the people, sadly it is very successful as it sows seeds of doubt (re how to deal with collaborators?) in the minds of people fighting for their existence while allowing them to show how gracious they are to offer such work.
These are all reminders that while nation states exist, no one is free. Whether trapped within their myriad systems held in place by capitalism and social authourity or exluded, cut out and refused even the most basic positive aspect our shared world, these instititons are a cancer on all people and they, along with their imaginary lines with which they have brought such death and destruction need tearing down.
We cannot be stateless while the state still holds the cards. The parasites will always try to persecute the vulnerable. While some Bidoon fight for recognition and equality, others fight to build up their communities, there are whispers of Anarchist networks building both in Kuwait, across the Middle East and in the diaspora worldwide, looking to a better future free from the heel of an uncaring state government. Such a movement requires solidarity from across the working class, Bidoons and citizens both, standing together against the enemy, working together towards liberty and a Kuwait where no one has to fight for the right to exist. ■